Follow the Section 1 boys basketball playoffs on Twitter @MSGVarsityKDJ
RYE BROOK, N.Y. — Just how physical was Friday's Section 1 Class B opening round playoff game between Blind Brook and Westlake?
Trojans point guard Sam Adler summed it up best: “It felt like a football game.”
No. 5-seeded Blind Brook outlasted the No. 12-seeded Wildcats in the gridiron-meets-hardwood battle, limiting Westlake to just 14 second-half points en route to a 56-44 victory. The game was actually called with 31.4 seconds left in regulation after things got a little too physical.
The Trojans will travel to No. 4-seeded Pleasantville for a quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday.
Blind Brook — normally a stingy defensive team that concentrates on holding its opponents below 40 points — failed to live up to its standards in the first half. The Wildcats dominated the paint and grabbed a 30-29 halftime lead.
“We gave up 30 points in the first half, which is really unacceptable for us,” Trojans coach Mike Welsh said. “We came into the game trying to hold them to around 40-45 points. It didn't look good at halftime being that we gave up 30 in the first half.”
Blind Brook's patented defensive toughness surfaced in the second half. And it all started with shutting down Westlake junior Tommy Hopkins, a 6-6, 282-pound Division 1 football recruit who bullied the Trojans inside. Hopkins scored all 11 of his points in the first half, making a living on easy putbacks and prime post position.
In the second half, Blind Brook doubled Hopkins at the onset of each defensive possession. The Trojans brought the double when the ball was delivered inside to Hopkins as opposed to waiting for the entry pass. One player fronted Hopkins to deny the ball while the other provided support to the rear. Antoine Saliba (seven points), Ben Seguljic (four points), Brennan Schaenman and Jack Jamilkowski (13 points) all had a hand in shutting down Hopkins.
“It certainly limited (Hopkins') looks,” Welsh said. “He had his way with us in the first half and our guys did a tremendous job in the second half. It was as physical a game as I've been involved in in a long time.”
According to Westlake coach Steve Pesick, Blind Brook also improved its defensive rebounding in the second half.
“They did a better job on the boards,” he said. “Tommy got a couple putbacks in the first half, but he didn't get anything in the second.”
With its defense and rebounding stabilized, Blind Brook kickstarted its transition game. The Trojans opened up the second half on a 10-2 run to grab a 39-32 with 5:37 left in the third quarter. Overall, Blind Brook outscored Westlake 13-6 in the third to grab a 42-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Senior point guard Sam Adler scored six of his team-high 14 points during the third-quarter surge, using his combo of speed and strength to create opportunities against Westlake's bruising big men.
“We didn't think we had anybody to matchup with (Adler) in man,” Pesick said. “He's a little faster than our starting guards.”
More importantly, Adler took care of the basketball, which allowed the Trojans to keep Westlake at bay.
“That's what I take pride in as a point guard,” Adler said. “You can't give up the ball with turnovers. I have pride in holding onto the ball. My shot wasn't there today, but I had to do everything else to help us win.”
Wildcats guard Rich Maio did his best to keep it interesting down the stretch, pouring in 10 of his game-high 16 points in the second half. Westlake cut the deficit to five points on a few occasions in the fourth quarter, however, it failed to get over the hump.
Blind Brook will now look to keep its championship dreams alive against Pleasantville. The Panthers are coached by Mike Welsh's younger brother, Chris, who was previously an assistant coach at Blind Brook. Needless to say, Pleasantville will have a pretty good read on the Trojans.
“The other coach Welsh obliviously knows us,” Adler said. “We scrimmaged (Pleasantville) at the beginning of the year, but I know they have improved a lot since then. It's going to be tough and in a tough environment, but I think we are ready.”
Follow Isaac Cass on Twitter @MSGV_Icass